Thoughts on single|loneli – ness

Thoughts on single|loneli – ness

When I think about it rationally, there are so many benefits of being single.

But all rational thought is chucked out the window when the jarring loneliness of singleness sets in.

It’s funny, how empty you can feel when these moments wash over you. All the benefits of singleness cannot seem to match what your friends who are married/attached have.

Loneliness is not a feeling only singles experience. Ben Stuart, who preaches at Passion City Church Washington DC, mentioned that the loneliness of singlehood is nothing compared to the loneliness of lying in the same bed next to someone with whom you cannot share your deepest thoughts with.

(hahaha sorry I had to, it’s my fav meme)

But I can only speak from the experience on this side of life, though maybe some of it could be potentially helpful for the married person who feels lonely in his/her marriage.

Loneliness is a powerful feeling. It can drive us to our knees in tears. It can, in some, cause them to throw themselves into any relationship they can find in order to escape the chasm they feel. It can, on the other extreme, drive people into isolation. The familiar embrace of loneliness creates greater inertia in connecting with people.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of being lonely, or to know when the loneliness would appear. Sometimes it could be cyclical (girls, amiright?), sometimes it could be circumstantial (like being the only single person at a table full of couples discussing wedding plans/house renovation). Sometimes it could be a spiritual attack.

In the week leading up to our first women’s bible study, I was overwhelmed by an inexplicable loneliness. I was not alone, but I felt it. So empty, so useless.

The thing with loneliness is not just the strong feelings, but the assault it wages against my identity.

Loneliness, coupled with the confusion of singleness, can often lead me to make irrational rationalisation of why I am alone/single. It’s a really odd thing, because on days that I’m feeling alright, these thoughts seem so unnatural and untrue.

Certain lies you’ve been told/told yourself over the years in order to rationalise situations, even after countless encounters of healing & deliverance, would resurface with more power than ever. At least it feels that way.

Some recurring lies for me are: “I’m too fat”, “I’m too strong-willed”, “I’m too different”, “I’m too opinionated”, “I’m too big” or “I’m too ugly”. Words I’ve heard from people, well-meaning or not, over years formed strongholds that years of ministry and pursuing God has torn and still is tearing down.

In my last month, at a church conference, the word came up again about being an influence, people being drawn to me. And in the same breath the prophet told me I didn’t love myself.

“Ahh, again. do I not? ” I thought to myself. But she repeated it a number of times, and the Holy Spirit worked in my heart, pointing out this jarring reality that I had been living with. Again, He had to show me that I am beautiful and that He loves me. After this encounter, it was like the stronghold of self-despisal was completely ripped apart. I felt confident, not with an arrogance, but a complete ease at being myself.

And yet in this last week, the assault of lies came again through the darkness of loneliness. It was difficult to stay firm in my identity in God, When the feeling of loneliness overtakes me, there is a tendency to look in at myself. I became overly pensive about my own behaviours, my looks, my friendships, my singleness.

‘I’ve been here before’, I said to myself, spirit unwilling to be swept away in the familiar melancholy of loneliness. It was so tempting, to wallow in my self-pity, to reopen the can of self-criticism, to let the ugly thoughts overflow again.

The despair of loneliness is a lonely fortress. It is a city, fortified by walls of lies, built on false foundations of self-esteem and self-belief, guarded by the soldiers of deception, with a citizen of one: myself.

All the ministry and redemption has moved me out of this stronghold, and out into the freedom of the plains & mountains. In moments of loneliness, I find myself at the gates drawn wide, the call of despair luring me back into its stronghold, back to my fortress.

Yet, I can stand at the gate and choose to turn away. I’m no longer held captive by loneliness. I have been set free, plucked from its darkness, feet now firmly rooted on the Cornerstone, Christ alone. I can say to the deceptive gatekeepers, ‘No, I’m not going in there again’.

He, my Creator, tells me exactly who I am. Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139), precious and honoured in God’s sight (Isaiah 43), loved (erm, the whole bible).

In this last week of praying and reading my bible, God spoke to me through two stories.

Hagar was a servant of Sarai and Abram. She was a single woman without a family of her own and a foreigner. Because Sarah remained barren, the couple decided that Abram would sleep with Hagar in order that she might bear an heir for Abram. The bible does not tell us Hagar’s thoughts on the matter but perhaps she might have felt manipulated, or maybe it was opportunity she could be redeemed from her position of servant as child-bearer of Abram.

When she became pregnant, she grew in disdain of Sarai, who now regret her choice and found ways to get rid of Hagar. Sarai treated her harshly to the point that Hagar, a foreigner in the wilderness, now a single mom, ‘flees’ from her.

How lonely she must have felt.

Her dreams of being redeemed crashed. She has to carry the pain of being mistreated, and now the fear of a future uncertain of her child would be born safely, or if she could even raise him well. There was no one who understands her.

Until, “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.” (Genesis 16:7) I love that God pursued her, and found her. And even though God knew that Abram’s line would be continued by Isaac (who is born four chapters later), He named Ishmael, and gave Hagar promises that her son will prosper.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi*; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
Genesis 16:13-14

*Beer Lahai Roi means well of the Living One who sees me.

What mercy! What grace! I’m so blown away by this encounter with God. Hagar called upon a new name of the Lord, El Roi. A non-Jewish servant woman, receives a completely new revelation of the Lord. In her loneliness, God pursued her, and showed her that He is a God who sees her.

God sees us in our loneliness. He is El Roi, the God who sees me. What a comforting reminded that we are never really alone. I pray today that in moments of loneliness that you would call upon the name of the Lord, El Roi, and receive the comfort He gives, the reminders of His promises over your life.


There’s another well in the bible where God meets with a broken woman. She too, was single, (“I have no husband,” she replied. – John 4:17) and struggled with multiple broken romantic relationships (Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” – John 4:17-8).

Women of the village would often gather in the mornings to draw water from the well because it was cooler (if you’ve ever been in noonday heat in Israel the sun literally burns through your skin). But this woman, goes to the well at noon, alone.

Her loneliness, if I were to infer, would also be evident in the fact that she had multiple husbands and was in a non-committal relationship with another. Bearing in mind how unusual such a situation would be at that time, it probably explains why she was also not with the other women drawing water from the well.

But on this particular day, a different man waited by the well for her. This Jewish man, ignoring all social rules, spoke to the Samaritan woman and ‘told [her] everything [she] ever did’ (v 29).

What struck me was that Jesus knew her. He knew she would be at the well, so He waited there. He knew her broken relationships, her loneliness. He knew what she needed the most was living water from the Messiah.

Her encounter with Jesus was so profound that she immediately ran off and exclaimed to the entire village about the Messiah. Where she was lonely and an outcast before, many received hope because of her. Jesus stayed to teach, and so many became believers because of this woman’s testimony.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4: 13-4

Jesus waits at the well of your heart of loneliness. He knows us deeply, and He offers us a living water of satisfaction that marriage would never give. He would make us into the very spring of this living water that would bring life. Come to Jesus in your loneliness, and drink from this water.

What does it mean to drink? I’m still figuring this out, but one thing He spoke to me about was that I hadn’t been intentionally spending time with Him, really listening and seeking Him. I wasn’t pouring out my feelings or conversing with Him. So maybe drinking from the living water means coming to Jesus and soaking in His presence, enjoying the times of refreshing with Him. Letting His truths sink in so that the lies of loneliness can be pushed out!

Jesus knows deep loneliness. He lived it. I’ll write another post on this to look at His life of loneliness, but I think the beauty of this life walking with Christ is that He is not only a God who sees us, a God who knows us, He is a God who empathises with us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Hebrew 4:15

I pray that if you find yourself struggling with loneliness, whether in a season of singleness or not, it’ll be a season of knowing God deeply. He is with you, and He is pursuing you. Let Him tear down the fortress of loneliness & guardedness. I pray that when you step out beyond those walls you will taste the joys of community and see the beauty of life He has created.

Most importantly, my prayer for you is that you will grow deeply anchored in the promise that your God walks beside you, behind you, in front of you. You are hemmed in on all sides with His love and grace. Step out of the fortress of despair, and step into the paradoxical castle of the King, secure & safe but so completely free.

author’s note: this one was a particularly difficult one to write. It felt too close for comfort, the battles with loneliness still being waged. But I sincerely pray that it encourages you. I would love to hear your reflections on the two bible stories, or if you’d like, your thoughts on loneliness. DM me at @joyinthedust or contact me here.

Letter to my early twenties

Letter to my early twenties

Thank you for relevant art @nathanwpyle

All the grand ideals of financial independence and beginning your career after 17 years of studying have come crashing down into exhaustion and cynicism. Most days you lie in your bed curled up in a ball too tired to process the emotions of the day, but too bothered by them to fall asleep.

No one around you seem to talk about how confusing these few years have been. People younger than you seem to think you are living the dream, while people older than you have all these expectations on you to be energetic and passionate. Yet the dominant feeling inside is ‘What am I doing with my life?’

Everything you learnt in university has faded away into a romantic dream of fantasy and ‘making a difference’. The job that you have dreamt of, has become the very thing that keeps you up at night with anxiety.

Meanwhile, on social media your friends seem to be powering ahead with achieving life milestones. Wedding invitations flood your inbox, and what started out as fun gatherings to celebrate friends slowly turn into life & money sucking events filled with eye-rolling cliches.

You feel a strong paradoxical need to both have a social life and to isolate yourself. The rare ‘planned 3-months in advance’ dinners with friends you used to see 2-3 times a week now become talk about bosses, holidays and house renovations. And you feel so isolated.

And it seems at times no one understands you, and no one has time for you. Friends appear to move on better than you do while you still hold on to the intimacy you shared with them like sand between your hands.

Most times your emotions come out as tears. You want to be understood, but you can’t find the words to express how you feel. Your thoughts are overwhelmingly loud, and they don’t stop, so you throw yourself into all sorts to try and stop it. You work out extremely hard, you sleep less, you eat less and then you eat more, you pour yourself out into relationships around you that aren’t the healthiest, trying to feel loved.

My dear, trust me when I say I know exactly how you feel, with all the complexities and grey around what is supposed to be the ‘time of your life’. You want to do so much more but there’s so little of you left, yet you feel that there’s so much more you can give and should give so you beat yourself down and yell at yourself for being useless.

Love, listen to me.

be patient.

Things are confusing, they don’t necessarily make sense in the future either but the intensity of the confusion of life will slowly fade. You learn to take one thing at a time, you learn you are not the saviour of the world, you learn that you cannot give unless you first be loved.

Your old friends move on, but God gives you new ones for the season you are in. You have no idea how beautiful these friendships would be. They would have all the depth you crave for in relationships, you would feel safe and secure with them. You would learn to bare your heart to them, knowing your sisters hold your heart close. Some old friends come back, older and wiser with life and they give you incredible perspectives. Some friends stick around through the seasons.

You learn to let go of sentimentality and ‘the good ol’ times’. You learn to struggle to be present even if everything seems bleak. You receive such revelation of God’s goodness.

You learn to embrace your tears and let them freely flow. You realise that your crying is a gift on this side of heaven that is worship to the Father. He loves your tears, as silent prayers of dependence and joyous overcoming. Your tears are like a language between Him and you, a secret conversation of His work in your life. You see His hand on every part of your life, past, present and continuing in the future.

You learn that it’s okay to not know what is going to happen, but you can trust in your loving Father. Most importantly, you grow into the woman He wants you to be, and every moment of struggle and pain and confusion now, has made you so much more sensitive to His heart, ready to receive Him and His story for your life.

be praying.

Some days you forget to pray and seek His heart. It’s okay, but do it as much as you are able. Seek His face, and His presence. Turn from the unhealthy relationships the one that you are don’t feel safe in but feels the addiction of validation. Turn to the Father, the good good father who loves you and knows you.

He will give you the language to make sense of your confusion. He will silence the lies of the devil which tells you again and again you are ugly and not worthy of love. God will show you His deep love. He will tell you to return again to His love letter that brought you back to Him all those years ago. He will say “I speak to you tenderly. I’m pursuing you”

be pursued.

Lastly, be pursued. Let God pursue your heart. Stop fighting on your own strength, and telling yourself you are not enough. Because you are not, but you are deeply loved and He is more than enough.

Let people love you. You may feel so lonely, but people are trying to love you the best way they can. Reach out to people for difficult conversations even if just to cry. They have time, and you are not a burden.

Don’t isolate yourself, but run to His people. There are a few friends you can rely on. Your family are silently watching but they can’t speak into your life unless you first invite them to.

Take that day off, say no to that thing at work, rest over the weekend. It’s all good. People won’t die, you won’t die, you aren’t being irresponsible.

Let yourself be loved.

As you move closer to your 30s, it’s like colours are injected into life again. You find clarity, you find good community to run with, you find purpose. Most of all, you find God.

He is so close, He is so good, He is so there. All the time. And while the future becomes even more unclear, you are so assured of the certainty of God’s promises. You will dream again, and you dream harder. You make those crazy prayers you shelved away in those early years. And He is materialising them, in powerful ways you couldn’t have orchestrated it in anyway.

So take heart my dear, you’ll be fine. He is with you.

The trap of sentimentality

The trap of sentimentality

Sentimental
A sentimental person is strongly influenced by emotional feelings, especially about happy memories of past events or relationships with other people, rather than by careful thought and judgement based on facts.

torn setlist, 2011 Switchfoot gig

Anything can become memorabilia for me. Cards, pictures, notes, notebooks, musical programmes, sheet music, song lyrics, stage managing cues, the signed t-shirt of my favourite teenage band, concert tickets, the torn setlist from a gig in 2011, a torn poster from that same gig, books from a decade ago, bookmarks, post its on books, my A level notes.

It’s hilarious, really, the amount of stuff I accumulate because they have sentimental value. I hold on to them so tightly, spending money to ship them home from the UK when I moved, buy boxes to contain them, then buying dehumidifiers to ensure that they don’t get mouldy.

But many of the things that I hold on to the tightest, are less tangible. Places, people, certain memories.

I reminisce a lot. I love recalling the good ol’ days with friends and particularly, revisiting places of my spiritual awakening. London especially, had become a place of longing for me because it was where I had some of my most profound experiences as a young adult. I went back as frequently as I could (annually?) and even dreamt of going back to live, study or work in London.

London, 2016

It’s great, isn’t it? To have such strong and beautiful memories of the past, relationships from a defining time in my life.

And yet, God showed me that I had fallen into the trap of sentimentality.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being sentimental about the past, reminiscing, thinking about ‘last time’. But the sinister side of sentimentality creeps in slowly, taking root bit by bit. Maudlin moments of madness become familiar places to wallow in self-pity and soon I realised that I had no hope, no dreams, no sense of a better future.

Everything that was good remained a romanticised past. I could not see that God had good things in store for me. Perhaps this was exacerbated by the difficulties of my circumstance, being stressed out at work, depressed, already helpless. The sentimentality was an escape.

I liked to look at pictures from those years, or happier days of travel with friends. I liked to re-read cards and letters from friends. I re-posted posts and pictures on my social media with the caption ‘Reminiscing better days’ or ‘throwback thursdays’ or ‘when will I see days like these again’ or ‘of brighter days’.

It’s so subtle, how sentimentality slowly becomes a cage.

“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19

God says to his people ‘do you not perceive it?’. His word to me was ‘can you not see that I’m constantly doing something new in you and in your life?’ Even when He brought me to an incredible church in London, I was still hankering after ‘this past’ that I had with other friends.

When I went back to London, I thought it would be a fulfilment of all the desire I had to return to this place of my enlightenment, of my carefree days, dreaming and dancing. Instead, God showed me He had so much more in store. He brought along deep friendships, He redeemed my hurt from the church, He grew my love for His Word and His people.

There were two things that He spoke to me clearly about concerning the trap of sentimentality.

Firstly, I had been so caught up in the romanticising of London, I missed His calling for me in Singapore.

One of the most powerful encounters I had with God was when my Masters application for London was rejected, and I was bitter. God revealed Himself to me one day during worship and said “You want to be where I am right? I am here.” I had prayed many times before that I want to be where God is, thinking He was most definitely in London. Yet that day He said He was here in Singapore. My bitterness at having a premature farewell from London caused me to accept this in resignation, rather than a comfort.

But over this last year in London, God revealed to me that His calling for me was back in Singapore (at least in the next season). He redeemed my love for my country, the people, and the church of Singapore. He showed me the resources He had blessed Singapore with, His mandate for the nation and that I was to join in this miraculous story of unity of the church in my country.

I realised that letting go of London, resulted in greater enjoyment of it. I experienced London in a completely new way that year. I discovered new places that I fell in love with, new favourite corner cafes, new favourite picnic spots. New ‘traditions’ were formed with friends, like working together on Monday, random 8pm dinners during the summer on Hampstead Heath.

I enjoyed all of it with the peace and certainty that I will go back to Singapore. There was no despairing, or melancholy of leaving. My farewell party was a joyous time of thanksgiving, enjoying the company of good friends, going to my favourite places and such peace. I barely even took any photos of my farewell because I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying the company of friends.

Second was the romanticising of past friendships that held me back from His calling for me.

I don’t mean romantically attracted to old friends, but the sentimental nostalgia of certain friendships. We had such powerful memories in the years of our friendship. What God revealed to me though, was that all of us have indelibly changed. Our priorities in life, our dreams for the future, our love for one another. That has all changed. The foundation of our friendship was no longer what it used to be, but simply the shaky ground of nostalgia.

And while I am fiercely loyal to friendships that are dear to me, God showed me how holding on to these relationships was holding me back from walking intimately with Him. As He revealed to me my spiritual gifts and gave me revelation about my calling, reminding of my heart for missions and for preaching, I realised that these relationships had become idols in my life, and stopped me from entering into that destiny because my heart longed to be with them but they were heading in a different direction from where God is leading me. I was yoking myself unequally with people from a different time who have vastly different priorities.

It was clear, I had and still have to take a step back from some of these friendships to reassess them. This was difficult, and I’m still quite raw from the active decision to withdraw. It felt like God had pulled a rug from under my feet. And yet, in His time, He brought back some of it in a different way, with boundaries drawn, and clarity about where we were as friends.

This process of saying goodbye to my romanticised past was straightforward for other friendships. We had become busy with other people and other things, and stopped contacting each other regularly. I just had to consciously move them from ‘close friends’ to ‘friends’, and enjoy the interactions we have when we do have them. The occasional dinners, and conversations on Whatsapp. I had to stop myself from feeling ‘abandoned’ when I’m no longer privy to their inner thoughts, but to recognise that all of us have moved on. I knew I had, I just didn’t want to let go and it did no one more harm than myself.

In His grace, He brought new friendships with focus on God and the gospel. These friends saw my broken heart when I made the choice to draw boundaries with certain friends, took me aside, heard my heart and prayed with me. We laugh together, share stories from our journey with Christ, edify one another, send long voice messages on Whatsapp, egg each other on to follow the adventure that God is calling us on. When I tell them about my dreams, they get more excited that I am. When I’m silent, they draw me out of myself into a vulnerable safety.

I’m not comparing friends. I’m learning that there are seasons. Some friends were perfect for a season, and when God calls us to move on with Him, we might have to make the decision to leave behind some things that will hold us back from our single-minded pursuit of Him.

Seasons are best left where they have been. Imagine a wintry spring after five months of winter. There were some days in the summer in London at the start when it was still cold and wet and I’m just like, ‘COME ON IT’S SUMMER ALREADY’. This is probably the same as the seasons in our lives.

Trying to hold on to my past robs me the joy of being present, and celebrating what He is doing now. It conceals the hope of a greater future, one that He has written and yet also writing alongside me.

I think Paul speaks about this when he wrote to the Corinthians about our newness as believers in Christ.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17

It’s the same language as in Isaiah 43 ‘Behold, I am doing a new thing‘. BEHOLD. Look! See! Witness! See all the new things I am doing, see the new that I am bringing.

Turn your eyes away from the old self, from the things of the past, and look at to the new things God is bringing. Like literally, SEE IT. See the new people God has brought alongside us to walk with us in this new season. See the new environment. See the new path laid before us.

Most importantly, look unto Jesus. See the new covenant in His blood. See His love for us on the cross. See his faithfulness in His promises to His people. See the adventure of a life we would lead if we followed Him like the disciples did.

Are you trapped in sentimentality? Always reminiscing past relationships or events? Romanticising a time in your life where you felt you had freedom or energy or maybe health? Steeped in nostalgia?

Do you feel like your future cannot be better than your past? That is a lie and a distraction! God is doing and will do a new thing in you. There is hope because, paradoxically, our God is unchanging. He is immutable. And His immutable faithfulness is why we can have hope for our future.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.
Lamentations 3:22-24

I pray today that we will be set free from the traps of sentimentality, but firmly rooted in the immutability of our God, we will run with Him and behold the new things He is doing in our lives. I pray that our eyes will be opened to see the seasons of the past that still linger on today and are obstructing us, and to recognise the season of our now. If we are trapped in hopelessness of a bleak future, I pray that the Holy Spirit will renew our minds and show us the beauty of a life walking with Jesus. Never boring, never mundane, never ever hopeless. Always full of excitement, miracles, adventures. Difficulties, sure, but grounded in the unchanging promise that He has overcome the world and we do not need to be afraid.

TOP FIVE BOOKS FOR YOUR 2020 READING LIST

TOP FIVE BOOKS FOR YOUR 2020 READING LIST

Other than the compulsory 66 books of the bible, there is a wealth of literature out there for the Christian seeking to be fed. I’m a bit of an old soul, gravitating towards real books (like ones you actually have to physically flip pages) rather than other mediums. We live in a time where there are so many resources from which we can receive guidance, to supplement pulpit teaching. What a privilege that we can grow through reading articles, books, listening to podcasts, watching sermons online from different churches.

Just a few comments about this:

  1. It would be tempting to ‘go it alone’, because we get access to spiritual teaching outside the church. But I would like to encourage you that knowledge alone does not substitute God’s family, which we are called to be a part of.
  2. Ask of the Holy Spirit to be discerning in what you read/listen to. Not everything you find online is biblically sound. Always bring your doubts and questions to mentors or friends who can help you spiritually discern some of these things you are reading. Should you stop reading? Of course not! Part of maturing in our faith is growing in our knowledge of God and His Word, and discernment with wisdom is necessary!
  3. I would like to encourage us to read/listen broadly, especially into areas that we feel lacking in. Personally, I love rich and deep discussions of God’s word, so I look for sermons on books of the bible, or commentaries. Some of my favourite books are also those not by famous authors, so explore!

It can be a bit daunting for some people to find books to invest time into. So here are my top five Christian books for your reading in 2020.

MERE CHRISTIANITY, C.S. Lewis

A compulsory reading for any 21st century Christian. This is C.S. Lewis, who was a reputed atheist in Oxford University in the 20th century, and his reasoning on why he became a Christian. I love this particularly because he was good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, who was Christian, and would have long discussions about faith when they were at university together. Lewis is an extremely logical thinker with strong reasoning capabilities, which might help those who think of Christianity as a religion for the weak and uninformed, to see that even those with the most brilliant minds can acknowledge a need for faith and a Saviour.  

To be fair, I think the language might be quite intimidating for some readers, but I promise that it is worth the time sitting and uncovering Lewis’ argument for faith and Christ.

Fav Quote: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

BLUE LIKE JAZZ, Donald Miller

If Mere Christianity appeals those who love logic and reasoning, Blue like Jazz is a book that would speak to the soul of the artist. Donald Miller writes with such vulnerability and openness about his views about Christianity, and his personal walk with Christ. He calls this book ‘nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality’, and what he succeeds in doing is remove the barriers that certain Christian ideas create, and speak honestly as a man trying to pursue a relationship with Christ.

As a lover of the arts, Miller writes in a style that is akin to music, beautiful and rich, the words on the page like musical notes swimming around its reader. The narrative style in itself is art, but the beauty of a broken man seeking his identity in Christ is perhaps most profound characteristic of this book.

Fav Quote: “There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her.”

LETTERS TO THE CHURCH, Francis Chan

If you’ve read any of Chan’s stuff, you’ll know he writes with this brutal honesty, a certainty in his tone that suggests an immovable set of ideals that he truly and utterly believes in. This book is slightly different. His whole notion of what it means to do church has been transformed. There is a sense of humility and openness in his writing that I never heard from Chan before.

In a vulnerable exploration of what church is, Chan, who used to be the senior pastor of the largest megachurch in Ventura County, California, writes about how God has transformed his beliefs about church. He looks closely at the New Testament, and argues in favour of smaller churches that are focused on discipleship and family. Chan points out the non-committal Christianity that arose from the way we do church in wealthier societies, and contrasts it with the New Testament, as well as the churches in countries where being Christian costs them their all. A very sobering and thought provoking read I think everyone, especially church leaders, should invest some time into.

Fav Quote: “We’re busy reassuring one another that God wants us to do what’s safest for our families and to pursue God in a way that looks suspiciously similar to what we’d naturally do if our only concern was our own comfort and happiness.”

A PRAYING LIFE, Paul E. Miller

Another Miller to the collection, but unrelated to Donald (I think). This book, honestly, is one of the most transformative books I have ever read. ‘Prayer’ is something as Christians we are asked to do a lot of. Many of us pray, but I don’t know if I really knew what prayer is until I read this. I am given formulas (The Lord’s Prayer structure, some other acronym-ed stuff) for prayer, but always struggled to maintain a rich prayer life. My mind distracted, running out of words, falling asleep…

Miller shares vulnerably about struggles in his prayer life. A life of struggle with sickness in the family and relationship tensions, Miller speaks about prayer in light of being human. I love that. Often prayer in church can be this formulaic approach, or a performance. Sometimes people put on a ‘holy tone’ when they pray, sometimes dramatic, sometimes their volume shrinks, sometimes they become really serious. They say many words that would not be said in a normal conversation (like the overuse of Lord God, Father God, God). But prayer, as Miller writes, is like spending time with God at the dinner table, just having long conversations and enjoying each other’s company.

He also talks about living in an age of cynicism and how we can move past that to walk in faith both asking boldly, yet fully surrendered. I also wrote a post on this here. This book is a must-read, especially for those who would like to see breakthrough in their prayer life.

Fav Quote: “Prayer is asking God to incarnate, to get dirty in your life. Yes, the eternal God scrubs floors. For sure we know he washes feet. So take Jesus at his word. Ask him. Tell him what you want. Get dirty. Write out your prayer requests; don’t mindlessly drift through life on the American narcotic of busyness. If you try to seize the day, the day will eventually break you. Seize the corner of his garment and don’t let go until he blesses you. He will reshape the day.”

A BETTER STORY, Glynn Harrison

It was interesting to read this book in public and the title “God, Sex & Human Flourishing” displayed for all to see. And yes, this is exactly what this book is about. This book is particularly helpful if your church does not talk about the sexual revolution or what it means to be Christian in an age of liberal sexuality.

Harrison argues that the Christianity principles surrounding sex and relationships provide the best environment for the flourishing of mankind, including the protection of children and vulnerable women. He believes that Christians (especially in the West) need to see that their views on sex are now the minority view, and should equip themselves with reasoning and rationale to present an account to those who aggressively hold on to present-day notions of gender and sexuality. What is helpful in this book is that Harrison does give a better story about sex and sexuality, a story that as Christians we can get behind, and help us the next time we get into a conversation about our ‘out-dated/bigoted’ beliefs.

The most profound thing about this book, is the grace and love in which Harrison approaches the topic. He is firm in his beliefs, but also extends love to those who are struggling with sexuality, or are already living sexually immoral lives. He encourages the church to love freely, and letting the Holy Spirit do the transformative work, not argue our way to get people to change. I love that so much.

Fav Quote: “We can be fully sympathetic to the complicated (and mysterious) experience of those who struggle with gender dysphoria, without buying into the new gender ideology that has been built around it.”

Hope these reviews have been helpful. If you’d like more book reviews, I write some on my Instagram account @joyinthedust. Also let me know if you read any of these books and have ideas/thoughts to share!

Christ or Comfort?

Christ or Comfort?

“We’re busy reassuring one another that God wants us to do what’s safest for our families and to pursue God in a way that looks suspiciously similar to what we’d naturally do if our only concern was our own comfort and happiness.”
Letters to the Church, Francis Chan

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live a story that God writes, rather than one that I construct for myself.

Over Christmas, the abundance and excess of this season made me wonder if this is what God truly wants for us. I wonder if all this abundance in our lives actually obstructs the sound of God’s voice in our lives. That our middle-class dreams of comfort are more the chapters of the story we are writing for ourselves than the one that God is writing for our lives.

In the last six months I have been having conversations with people about leaving my stable job to pursue what I feel God is calling me to. I know He’s placed young people, ministry, teaching the Word and the nations on my heart.

I understand that it is important to be responsible for ourselves financially, but I wonder if we have been wired to pursue a life of stability and comfort so much so that it has overtaken a life filled with Gospel dreams.

The church of the New Testament was wrought with persecution and suffering. It was a staple, an expected occurrence if we followed Jesus Christ. Francis Chan elaborates on a theology of suffering that frankly, is quite alien to our Singaporean church. I will not go into this too much, so do read his book “Letters to the Church” as he reflects on his journey from megachurch pastor to his current theology on what it means to do church.

And I don’t mean that all of us should quit our jobs now and pursue suffering. I believe that all good things come from God and should be enjoyed. But I guess the question is, are we pursuing God wholeheartedly? His heart for the broken, the poor, the marginalised? Or are our choices more about ourselves and our own comfort?

Chan writes, “Part of the reason we have created a culture of non-committal Christianity that avoids suffering is that we don’t treasure Him enough. We want Jesus, but there are limits to what we will sacrifice for Him. We want Him, but there are lots of things we want in life.”

How sobering! Do we truly want Jesus? Can we sing ‘Christ is enough for me’ with all our hearts knowing that if in the next day, like Job, we lose everything, we will still worship the Eternal God?

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:7-11

the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord

I feel sometimes the reason why I don’t live a life of abandon for Him is because I don’t know the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. As I meditate and marinate in His Word and know Him and His promises more, the more I count things as loss. My job, sure, have it. My stability, sure, have it. My status, sure, have it. My reputation, sure, have it.

Paul writes that a life of counting all as loss, helps us to know Christ. And unless we die to ourselves, face trouble and suffering, how else would we experience the power of his resurrection?

There’s a sense of wariness sometimes when people say they are leaving their jobs, moving and giving up things to pursue what God is calling them to. I’m not a proponent of reckless abandon and non-commitment to our season.

But as I move closer to making this decision about pursuing God’s story for my life instead of my own, I’m starting to celebrate when people tell me “this is what God is calling me to do, so I’m going”. It’s becoming a normal thing. As Christians, being called to do the counter-cultural thing, to give up a stable job, to move towards financial instability, to risk our own families on the frontline of missions, should be the norm!

Instead, the abnormal Christian life of comfort and ease has become the norm. Instead of gospel conversations, we talk about work and bosses and paydays and bonuses. The next holiday we are going on, the holiday we’ve been on, where we’re eating, what car to buy, house renovations, house buying.

When I asked friends at my birthday party what I should do more of, a resounding response was ‘date more!’ I don’t understand that. I mean, I understand it, they want me to find someone get married settle down. But Like Chan says, ‘Other kinds of good news stir more emotion than the gospel’ I wonder if this desire for me to settle down is more of a worldly desire than one fuelled by the gospel (Sorry guys! I love you!).

But the story that God is writing for my life is far bigger than that. As I sat in Seoul listening to the guest speaker from YWAM talk about unity of the Korean church (North & South), the passion of the Mongolian church to reach North Asia, my heart burned with God’s heart for the nations. As I sat and saw youths at FOPx crying out with such desire for God to transform their lives and their country, the pastors praying for the unity of the church in Singapore, I wept for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

His version of my life story is far greater than what I can even imagine. And my life story is only but a snippet of an incredible blockbuster film that He is writing.

And I don’t believe that it is for a select few. I believe that God’s heart for all of us are equally big. His dreams for us so massive. If only we would open our ears to hear His heart, and to seek Him with all our hearts and find that He has incredible things in store for us. More than financial stability, more than accolades, than promotions, more than family happiness.

He is inviting us to be a part of the Kingdom blockbuster He is writing. To be an invaluable part of His story. To live the adventure that He is calling us to.

Comfort is such a blessing from God, but it can also be the devil’s distraction to keep us from stepping into the story that God is writing for our lives. What does your heart burn for? What are you hoping to see done in your lifetime? What are the gifts He has given you? Has He been speaking to you about pursuing something radically different from what you are doing now?

A note to those who already have something on your heart, and God is calling you to go.
There’s obvious provision and opportunity to go but there is apprehension, and pushback from people around you. My advice is pray, draw close to Him, hear His heart, be near Him, stay in good spiritual community, seek the wisdom of those who’ve gone before you. If God is calling you to missions, speak to missionaries. If God is calling you to social work, speak to those doing social work especially those with a gospel-filled life.

Then do it. And watch the adventure unfold as God leads you into some of your most exciting days. If you’re choosing to walk into God’s story, there will be resistance. Steel your heart for potential persecution/suffering & stand firm in light of the devil’s attacks throwing doubt and deception your way.

For some of us, we have a dream but it just does not feel like the right time.
God is preparing you, much like the training season of the protagonist in a story. Maybe it is not time yet to go, but there is something on your heart. I would say, keep at it! Keep seeking God, laying your desires at His feet. Trust Him that in this wilderness season of waiting, He is growing you in your character. He is also weeding out things in your life that obstruct the Holy Spirit working in you. Trust and trust and trust! Seek His heart always, that He is in the end, your ultimate goal. So even if He never calls you out to that thing you feel strongly for, you are deeply known and loved. And that has to be sufficient for you.

Maybe you’ve never considered a life sold out to Christ. But reading this post has stirred something in you. There has to be something more!
Well, the beauty of a life walking with Christ is, there is always more. He has a beautiful and perfect plan for your life. Instead of just reading the stories of those who have done great things for God, seek God and ask Him what His story for you is. What is He calling you to? It could be something simple like serving the local church. It could be pastoring the young friends in your congregation. It could be being a light in your marketplace for the gospel and telling your colleagues/employees/employers about Jesus.

It doesn’t have to be in the world’s terms ‘spectacular’, like a Watchman Nee or a Francis Chan. Whatever it is God has called you to do/be, it would be an adventure. Like a black and white picture coming to life with colour, or like a wild animal enclosed in a cage for years finally stepping out into the wild again. And it would be massive for the kingdom of God, because His economy is different. He doesn’t look at the number of people you brought to His kingdom, He sees how you have stewarded what He has given you, your heart for Him. I believe that in heaven, the widow who gave those two coins and lived a simple life of loving & fearing God, would be side by side Billy Graham, the incredible evangelist.

What an adventure we can live with God if we would let Him author our stories, if we joined Him in the writing of the chapters.

In this next season of my life, I’m excited to see what He has in store. I honestly have no idea what is coming my way. I just have little puzzle pieces that God has given me to steward. Connections with people, random deep conversations about life, God’s heart for His church. But His assurance is so overwhelming. Last night as I prayed and conversed with Him, again and again He said to me “You’re on the right track”.

There is so much doubt and uncertainty, but nothing beats the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. One thing I am certain, is that I’m right in the middle of a story that the Creator God is writing, and I can trust His authorship, and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

I pray the same for you. ❤

Will He know us?

Will He know us?

A vulnerable conversation with a colleague this week stirred many thoughts about life. She shared that a good friend of hers recently passed away. As a responsible educator, he devoted much of himself to work, often staying late and working on weekends. Sadly, he collapsed of a heart attack while on holiday with his wife and child.

That same day while walking back to the office, one of the security guards suddenly fell forwards, landing on his head in an awkward position, unable to get up. He was helped up by some colleagues. He suffered abrasion on his forehead and had a raised bruise on his head, yet he insisted on not going to the hospital. It was a relief to hear later that his supervisor sent him to the hospital because it did not seem like a usual accident.

How fleeting life is. And I don’t mean to say this as a cliched ‘I don’t know what to say in these situations’ type response. But an honest deep revelation that I am but flesh, and will die.

A phrase we commonly use to encourage students to plan for their year is ‘Begin with the end in mind’. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to see at the end of your secondary school years?

It is probably easier to envision the end of our four protected years in secondary school than the messiness of our entire life. But I ask these questions. What if we extended this to our lives? What do we want to see at the end of our lives? When we meet Jesus again, what do we want to talk about?

Perhaps like me, many of us envision our deaths to be of old age, perhaps well into our 70s/80s, lying in a hospice somewhere surrounded by family, the doctor telling the family ‘it is time’, and with tears and peace saying goodbye, kisses on the forehead as I smile, eyes closing gently.

But my recent car accident knocked that idea out of my head completely. The vivid scene often replays in my head: the collision, the car swerving across the highway and crashing into the side of the bridge, the loud cries of ‘Jesus’ in the car, and then the silence when we realised we were alive.

We have no idea when we will die.

Other than a heightened sensitivity and slight tensed-ness when I’m driving/in a car, the biggest outcome from this experience is a complete and utter sense of mortality.

Not a fearful anxiety-ridden realisation, but a deep and intentional understanding of my numbered days.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:9-12

The psalmist (Moses) writes of the mortality of man juxtaposed with the eternity of God. He describes man as ‘dust’ and ‘grass’. And with God, the everlasting one who was, even before the mountains were formed. Any geography student (or Google) can tell us of how many insane years it takes for mountains to be formed. (i love that we think we live in the post-enlightenment age of knowledge and science and yet Moses in poetry already expressed ideas we somehow seem to think only science has revealed).

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom

He also brings up the ‘power of [God’s] anger and [His] wrath’. And in light of this (‘So teach us’), to number our days. To know that we will soon die, our days on earth are limited. This would give us a heart of wisdom.

It is fascinating that a knowledge of our mortality and the everlasting-ness and power of God, would give us a heart of wisdom. It puts things in perspective. While life is ‘toil and trouble’, they would soon end. While life may (in our comfortable times) be full of pleasures and peace, it would soon end. And we will stand before the Judge, to give an account for how we led our lives.

I had the privilege of speaking with See Ting about life and sickness. The most powerful thing I received from her testimony, is that her struggle with cancer has led to a deep understanding of God and His grace over her life. We spoke of the intentionality that results from standing face to face with mortality. Numbering our days can help us live with a greater abandon, and give us a clarity about what truly matters in life.

So what does matter?

When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’  But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’
Luke 13:25 -27

Oh what a horrid day that would be if I stood before Christ and told Him “but I ate and drank with you, and listened to your teaching” and He says to me “I do not know you”.

So many people go to church and listen to sermons but know Jesus like any stranger may know someone through their Facebook/Instagram pages. We know some of what He has said, we know the names of His friends, we know what He got up to when He was alive.

But do we know Him? Do we know His heart for His people? His eternal plan for man? His love for the church, His bride? His compassion for the marginalised? His holy wrath towards sin and evil? His holiness and glory?

Does He know us? Of course He knows us more than we do ourselves because He is God. But does He recognise us as His sheep? As one who hears His voice and follows. As one who pursues His heart and speaks to Him and voluntarily lets Him into our heart. As one who is honest and vulnerable with Him. As one who walks with Him.

One powerful revelation I have had recently is that when I see Jesus, He will be in His full glory. Not the strange meek, white jesus that is portrayed in films. But the son of God, fully God Himself.

 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,  and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. 
Revelation 1: 12-17

This is written by the disciple John, the one who wrote of himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, the one who was closest to Jesus that He could record down Jesus’ intimate prayer for His disciples. The one who reclined on Jesus’ bosom. This is that John.

This is also the John who saw Jesus in His full glory, and fell to the floor as though dead, utterly fearful of Him.

This is the Jesus we will meet when we die. This Jesus, described by John with the word ‘like’ because he is unable to find the words to truly describe the glory of Christ.

I’m completely floored by the knowledge, that this same glorious, awesome Jesus, if He knows us, would place his hands on us and speak to us as friend.

Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Revelation 1: 17-18

Wow. What grace! What grace extended to us, to be able to walk with God. To have the privilege of knowing Him. To hear His voice and follow Him. This glorious God who would die on the cross for man, so that they may be in His presence eternally, every toil and trouble forgotten, every regret of life melted away.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse recorded down her patients’ reflections at the end of their lives, and their top regrets. The Guardian sums up the top five regrets of the dying.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

Perhaps some of us might find these reflections good points to think about our own lives. I think of greater eternal significance than these humanly regrets, is the conversation that we will have with Christ when we meet with Him. Perhaps in those moments we would think ‘I wish I’d the courage to live a life obedient to Christ, not the life others expected of me’ or ‘I wished I had spend more time knowing Jesus’ or ‘I wish I had let myself know the joy of the Lord’.

Initially I wanted to write a post focused on how we like to spend all our time on work and material things. But I think the Spirit struck right at the core of me. It isn’t about all the things we are doing wrong.

It is about Jesus.

Do you know Him? Will He know you?

What truly matters is knowing Jesus, and Him knowing us. If we live intentionally to know Him and walk with Him, our choices in life, the things we spend our time on would naturally change.

My prayer today is that God would “teach us to number our days so that we get have a heart of wisdom”. And with that wisdom, to live intentionally to pursue our Saviour Jesus Christ, to know Him and walk with Him. To love Him. To listen to His voice and follow Him. To choose Him and what His heart over our selfish ambitions. To hear where He is calling us to and follow Him there, rather than be driven by worldly opportunities and restlessness. To know Him deeply, invest in His bride and love His people.

Here’s how I want my end of life conversation with Jesus to look like:

(I skipped the bit where I fall on the ground as though dead, and Jesus places His hands on my shoulders and tell me not to fear)

Me: Wow, I can’t believe I am here, with you, seeing you face to face now.

Jesus: It felt forever for you, but I’ve always known this moment.

Me: ahhh what a rollercoaster ride!

Jesus: It was, but you did well my dear child.

Me: Did I? There were some moments I felt I was free falling, and didn’t really know where I was going.

Jesus: Yes, but you heard me and went anyway. And I was there with you. Did you enjoy the adventure?

Me: I did. It was quite crazy, far beyond anything I think I imagined when I was a child. I’m so glad I followed you, and went where you called me to.

Jesus: I’m glad you did too. I love walking with you, Del.

At this point I imagine I’ll be a ball of emotions but then again there won’t be any more tears right? We’ll probably continue talking about all the people He placed in my life and their journeys, and then pray for them.

I don’t know, I don’t know what it’ll be like. But I drew some inspiration from Jesus’ words and how God speaks to/about Jesus. And some inspiration from my conversations with Him now. The facepalm moments, the uncertainty + complete assurance, His delight, His occasional playful jokes and reminders about His love for me.

I hope this blessed you. ❤

"they left everything and followed him"

"they left everything and followed him"

I had the privilege of joining some friends in Seoul for bible study last week. They had been reading through the book of Luke together, and we looked at Luke 4 & 5 on the two days I joined them.

I was so struck by the charisma of Jesus, his power and confidence. It is so amazing how even after reading Luke many times, the character of Jesus is so compelling. There’s always something different about him I notice when I read the accounts again, new perspectives on who he is, how he loved people, how he spoke.

This passage from Luke 5 stood out. I inserted it here for easy reading, and would make references to certain verses as I go along.

 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret,  and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Luke 5: 1 – 11

I have read this passage many times, but there is a new depth this time we studied it and as I pondered about it over the weekend in Korea.

1. Jesus wants to get in with us in our jobs.
Whatever careers we have, Jesus wants to be in the boat with us.
Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat (v3).

I love this. The carpenter turned Rabbi, getting into the boat with a random fisherman. Simon Peter at this point had not yet become a disciple, he was just minding his own business, doing what he had always done. And here comes Jesus, who gets in the boat with him.

2. Jesus wants to transform our marketplace.
I love that Jesus cares about our jobs. He saw the fishermen, and he comes in to transform their work.

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (v4).
A friend pointed out that when you fish, you stay in the shallower parts of the waters but Jesus told these fishermen to throw the nets into the deep. They were professional fishermen, fishing in these same waters for generations (probably their fathers and grandfathers did the same!). But here’s a carpenter who told them to do something contrary to what they already know!

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (v5)
I love this response from Simon, so honest. Like “look, carpenter teacher person, we have worked our butts off all night and there was nothing” And then he goes “but because you have proven yourself someone different and special from getting in the boat with me, and teaching powerfully, I’ll do it.”

Simon obeyed Jesus’ words, even if it was unusual and different. This resonated with me because sometimes Jesus asks us to do the most unconventional things. Like talking to a person we never spoken to before, or choosing to be honest even if others were cheating a system. But with obedience, there will be fruit!

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking (v6).
They had toiled all night, nothing. They did something unusual based on this Rabbi’s words, and now their boat is sinking and nets are breaking from their catch.

I love this so much. Jesus transforms our jobs and circumstances when we choose to listen and obey Him. Sometimes we think that we know better, we do things in a particular way because we are the ‘professionals’ at our jobs. But Jesus comes into our lives, gets into our boats, teaches us, and then tells us what to do and how to do something. We can either choose to say ‘no thank you, that’s too weird’ and row the boat back to shore and never experience incredible breakthrough, or we can say ‘right, I’ve tried again and again, but because you are Lord, I’ll do as you say’.

3. Jesus wants us.
At the end of this miraculous encounter, it wasn’t the fish & the money that mattered to the fishermen. It was Jesus.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (v8)
This particular verse stood out the most when we were reading this chapter. Simon Peter, instead of being overwhelmed by the fish & the resulting money that it provides, turns to Jesus and falls down at his feet, aware of His holiness and power, and his own sinfulness.

So often I find that when God brings fruit or miracles or growth or breakthrough, I get so caught up with all of it that I abandon Him. I stop spending time and pursing His heart. Instead of turning to the incredible catch that Jesus brought, Simon Peter focused on Jesus. The same thing happened with another person in the bible

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10: 41-2

Simon Peter chose what is better too. In the end God wants us. He wants our hearts and our lives.

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (v10-1)
Jesus wants us as His disciples. He wants us to work for His kingdom, to be willing to leave everything behind to follow him. If it means continuing in our jobs, then we are in those jobs as disciples. We learn to hold on to things loosely, because He may call us at anytime to somewhere else.

I pray today that we will know Jesus in our work, anywhere we are. That we would let Him get in the boat with us. That when he calls us to do something different/unconventional (with testing & within community!) we would obey. That above all, we would be His disciples and follow Him anywhere He calls us. What a challenge! What an adventure it would be!

Most recently God has been bringing a lot of favour and interesting connections in my life. In many ways, I feel like my nets are breaking from what God is showing me. Yet, I was so caught up with these things, resulting in a confusion about my future. God stopped me one morning and said “will you enjoy this with me?” I laughed at myself because I was so caught up with the cool stories and trying to make them make sense, when actually what is most beautiful about everything is that God is so kind, and He is walking closely with me.

I wanna choose the better thing.